Jonathan Edwards is one of the most extraordinary figures in American history. Arguably the most brilliant theologian ever born on American soil, Edwards (1703–1758) was also a pastor, a renowned preacher, a missionary to the Native Americans, a biographer, a college president, a philosopher, a loving husband, and the father of eleven children.
George M. Marsden -- widely acclaimed for his magisterial large study of Edwards -- has now written a new, shorter biography of this many-sided, remarkable man. A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards is not an abridgment of Marsden's earlier award-winning study but is instead a completely new narrative based on his extensive research. The result is a concise, fresh retelling of the Edwards story, rich in scholarship yet compelling and readable for a much wider audience, including students.
Known best for his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards is often viewed as a proponent of fire, brimstone, and the wrath of God. As Marsden shows, however, the focus of Edwards's preaching was not God's wrath but rather his overwhelming and all-encompassing love. Marsden also rescues Edwards from the high realms of intellectual history, revealing him more comprehensively through the lens of his everyday life and interactions. Further, Marsden shows how Edwards provides a window on the fascinating and often dangerous world of the American colonies in the decades before the American Revolution.
Marsden here gives us an Edwards who illumines both American history and Christian theology, an Edwards that will appeal to readers with little or no training in either field. This short life will contribute significantly to the widespread and growing interest in Jonathan Edwards.
George M. Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Notre Dame, is currently a scholar in residence at Calvin College. Among his many other books is the full-length biography Jonathan Edwards: AáLife (Yale 2003), which received nine awards, including the Bancroft Prize in history and the Grawemeyer Award in religion.
Publishers Weekly "A slim but solid biography of Edwards. . . Marsden's work provides an accessible and informed account for scholars and laypeople alike."
Booklist "A work of grace, lit by affection for the great clergyman and understanding of his place and time. . . A lovely précis of Edwards. "
Daniel Walker Howe, author of What Hath God Wrought, 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for history "Lucid and wise, brief but broadly informative, this book introduces present-day Americans to the greatest of early American Christian thinkers and to the colonial society in which he lived."
Tim Keller, author of The Reason for God "A masterpiece. Distilled in this little volume is not only Marsden's own massive knowledge of the man Jonathan Edwards but also a generation of scholarship that has sought to understand the religious roots of contemporary U.S. society. A must-read especially for pastors and preachers who want to be both faithful to classic Christianity and yet engaged with culture."
Harry S. Stout, Yale University "Marsden is easily the most distinguished historian of Edwards in the world today. . . With a clear and engaging writing style, he makes America's most brilliant colonial intellectual come alive as no other scholar has done."
Gerald McDermott, Roanoke College "George Marsden is our premier historian of 'America's theologian.' In this wonderfully accessible introduction to Jonathan Edwards's life and thought, Marsden not only shows why Edwards was the architect of the first American revolution (the Great Awakening) but also provides fresh insight into his God-intoxicated vision of reality."
Douglas A. Sweeney, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School "In this fresh, crisp retelling of the story of Jonathan Edwards, George Marsden offers a masterful synthesis of biographical data. Easy to read and never dull, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards should enjoy a long life on the shelves of personal, congregational, and academic libraries."
Themelios “Theologically sensitive, historically insightful, and engagingly written. Highly recommended.”
Westminster Theological Journal “An engaging and accessible little book that deserves wide readership. . . . An excellent introduction to the man who is arguably the most important and creative theologian and Christian philosopher America has ever produced.”
Religious Studies Review “Marsden’s slim volume should stand as a model for other eminent historians who would like to make their scholarship available to a popular audience.”
Reviews in Religion & Theology “Accessible and encouraging to read. . . . Highly recommended.”
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